Pandemic or not, Sholeth Choquette and Paul Sogeke were determined to start their business in 2020. Their shop, Dare to Vegan, offers vegan, ethical products for skin, hair and body that let shoppers feel better about their impact on the planet.
“I’ve always been creating things like body butter and lotions,” says Choquette, “and I was always trying to get Paul to use natural products on his hair, beard and skin.” The couple—partners in life and business—wanted products with all-natural ingredients, so they made their own. “All our products come with five ingredients or less. They’re safe to use on different skin types and hair types,” says Sogeke. The line includes curly hair butters to revive the spring in your curls, soaps, face masks, as well as exfoliating scrubs, and soothing bath soaks.
The first-time entrepreneurs originally planned to open a storefront in Winnipeg, but with lockdown restrictions, they shifted to e-commerce, opening an online shop instead. Sogeke’s interest in business, finance and coding came in handy as they tackled tasks they might have outsourced, like taking product photos and designing their logo. “When we were hit with the restrictions as we prepared to launch, it forced us to learn new things ourselves. We discovered we could do more than we think,” says Sogeke.
The couple tries to follow a vegan lifestyle in their diet, what they wear, and the products they put on their body. A virtual tour of the room where Choquette whips up fresh batches of the preservative-free products for Dare to Vegan includes the minimalistic packaging made from 100% recycled material. “Everything we do, we want it to be ethically sourced,” says Sogeke. Products are kosher and can be suitable for people living a gluten-free lifestyle or those with nut allergies, while the unscented line is great for babies or sensitivities to scent.
Dare to Vegan sources ingredients like essential oils from health food stores in Winnipeg. “We look first in Winnipeg for products, then in the rest of Canada, then in the rest of the world,” says Choquette.
Dare to Vegan’s plans for 2021 include opening a storefront and exhibiting at Le Marché St. Norbert Farmers’ Market and the Downtown Winnipeg Farmers’ Market, while their online store continues to ship across Canada and the U.S. They are grateful for customers from Winnipeg and beyond who have been discovering their products. “When you start as an entrepreneur, you have to be confident, but with COVID, it’s amazing to receive so much love and support. As a business, we’ve been almost spoiled,” says Sogeke.
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